BBC Announces NHS at 70 season of programming

This year, as the National Health Service marks its 70th anniversary, the BBC is launching a wide ranging series of programming centred on the NHS, its workforce and the hundreds of thousands of patients it sees every day.

Published: 11 April 2018
As the NHS marks a 70 year milestone, the BBC will launch an exciting season of programmes across television and radio looking at the history and the future of the NHS,
— Joanna Carr, Head of BBC Current Affairs

The season, which runs from 25 June to 8 July, includes programming across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, as well as BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4. Programming will look at every aspect of the NHS, commemorating the history of the health service and contemplating its future.

To mark the occasion BBC News is working with an eminent group of leading independent research organisations, including The King's Fund, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation, who will address five of the most important questions facing the NHS at 70.

The centrepiece of the season is a 90 minute event broadcast live from a hospital on BBC Two. Hosted by Nick Robinson and Anita Rani, this 90 minute programme will ask the big questions about the NHS today and its future. Drawing on landmark independent research from four leading think tanks, the programme will give audiences a chance to contribute to the wider conversation around the NHS. The audience will be comprised of patients and NHS staff with remarkable stories, plus leading health experts and medical pioneers.

BBC’s Head of Current Affairs Joanna Carr says, “Our national health service is one of the most hotly debated, celebrated, and scrutinised British institutions. As the NHS marks a 70 year milestone, the BBC will launch an exciting season of programmes across television and radio looking at the history and the future of the NHS, with the help of independent research think tanks, famous faces, historians and of course, the many staff who work across all areas of the NHS. We hope this season of programmes truly embodies the BBC’s Reithian mission to inform, educate and entertain.”

To mark the 70th anniversary, the team behind The Green Hollow will bring us To Provide All People, a drama commissioned by BBC Wales, with a cast of some of the UK’s top acting talent including Michael Sheen, Eve Myles, Sian Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Aimee Ffion Edwards, George Mackay, Martin Freeman, Meera Syal, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Grieg, Rashan Stone Michelle Fairley, Suzanne Packer, and Michelle Collins.

This film, written by acclaimed poet Owen Sheers, will chart the emotional and philosophical map of the NHS and the personal experiences that lie at the heart of the service, from patients to surgeons, porters to midwives. The cast of characters will represent the diversity of the NHS across its patients and workforce and bring us the intimate story of the NHS in British society today.

Radio 3 will mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS with a very special commission - a symphony composed entirely from the sounds of the health service and the words of its staff and patients.

A five part series on BBC One daytime called Matron, Medicine and Me sees five well-known faces with very personal reasons to say thank you to the NHS explore how the service has changed in the 70 years since its inception. Featuring Fern Britton, Denise Lewis, and Si King, each episode celebrates the doctors, the nurses and the unsung heroes of an institution that continues to be the envy of the world.

National Health Stories – a major 20-part Radio 4 series – will explore the most important, lasting and often surprising advances in public health in Britain from the 1930s to today.

Filming has just finished for Life on the Ward (wt), a two part series for BBC One where a cast of celebrities spend time in one of London’s biggest and busiest hospitals. Michael Mosely, Stacey Dooley, Ann Widdecombe and Jonnie Peacock all experience first hand the challenging realities of life on the shop floor.

The full season includes:

 

BBC News

The BBC is working with an eminent group of leading independent research organisations, who will address five of the most important questions facing the NHS at 70.

The group includes the Health Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust. It is the first time all four have come together in this way – a remarkable collection of brainpower to mark the 70th anniversary. With input from other experts, they will explore the following questions:

  • How good is the NHS?
  • Does the NHS need more money?
  • Are we expecting too much from the NHS?
  • How can we do better on social care?
  • What will new technology mean for the NHS and its patients?

The group's independent analysis, to be published in late June shortly before the anniversary, will be a major contribution to the national conversation around the NHS at 70, and will help to inform the BBC's coverage of the NHS at a crucial time.

BBC One

Life on the Ward (w/t, 2x60') 

Life on the Ward sees four well-known faces head to the coalface for BBC One’s new two part series. Spending time inside one of London’s biggest and busiest hospitals, King’s College Hospital, they will work alongside vital members of NHS teams, to experience first-hand the realities of life on the shop floor.

Everyone in Britain has been shaped by their experiences of the NHS and our BBC faces are no exception. They include Medical journalist Michael Mosely, reporter Stacey Dooley, former politician Ann Widdecombe and Paralympian gold medallist Jonnie Peacock. Under the glare of headlines about record waiting times, overcrowding and underfunding, the hospital teams continue to provide outstanding healthcare. So just how do they do it?

Made by BBC Studios’ Science Unit. The Executive Producer is Helen Thomas. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Craig Hunter.

Matron, Medicine and Me (5x45')

Matron, Medicine and Me sees five well known faces with very personal reasons to say thank you to the NHS explore how the service has changed in the 70 years since its inception. Featuring Fern Britton, Denise Lewis, and Si King, each episode celebrates the doctors, the nurses and the unsung heroes of an institution that continues to be the envy of the world.

Executive Producer is Paul Connolly and Series Producer is Austen Irwin.

Songs of Praise, 1 July (1x30') 

Songs of Praise is making a special episode for BBC One commemorating the NHS. It will look back at the NHS from its birth to how it has grown to be at the heart of communities, meeting Christians who were there at the very beginning as well as some of today’s chaplains, Christian doctors, nurses, patients and volunteers. There will be appropriate hymns and music from across the UK to pay tribute to the everyday heroes of this national institution.

Made by Nine Lives/Avanti. Executive Producers are Cat Lewis and Emyr Afan. Commissioning Editor is Fatima Salaria.

BBC Two

NHS Live Event programme  (w/t, 1x90')

Hosted by Nick Robinson and Anita Rani, this 90 minute programme, live from a hospital, will mark the 70th anniversary and asks the big questions about the NHS today and its future. Drawing on the landmark independent research from four leading think tanks, the programme will gives audiences a chance to contribute to the wider conversation around the NHS at this crucial milestone. The audience will be comprised of patients and NHS staff with remarkable stories, plus leading health experts and medical pioneers.

Commissioned by Joanna Carr for Current Affairs, Executive Producer is Sam Bagnall and Producer is Adam Grimley.

Hospitals that Changed the World (w/t, 5x30')

Hospitals that Changed the World explores the achievements of five pioneering centres of excellence across the UK. The series tells the story of how the NHS has been at the forefront of medical advances down the decades. Many hospitals existed before the NHS was created, and thrived in the new system of free publicly-funded health care that developed across Britain from 1948 onwards. Importantly, they continue to offer pioneering treatments and advances in medical science. Each episode focuses on a hospital or centre of excellence in a different city or region of England – five locations each with different health stories to tell.

Individual episodes will be executive produced by Ingrid Kelly, Jacqui Hodgson, Dippy Chaudhary, Diana Hare and Dave Hart.

The British Buyers Club  (w/t, 1x60')

The British Buyers Club is as one hour drama documentary for BBC Two which tells the incredible story of Greg Owen; a former sex worker who helped stop thousands becoming HIV positive by providing access to a drug (PrEP) that prevents the virus developing in the body. At the time the NHS were trialling the drug across England, but with numbers limited and many unable to enrol on the trial, it was Greg - homeless and skint - who found himself running Britain’s main gateway to PrEP from his mother’s kitchen in Belfast.

This film also tells the story of the legal fight that eventually forced NHS England to consider commissioning PrEP; an emotive battle which would see the cost of the treatment publicly pitted against the cost of prosthetic limbs, blood cancer drugs and drugs for children with cystic fibrosis.

Made by Pulse Films. Mark Henderson is the Producer/Director. Ceri Aston-Holmes is the Executive Producer. The Commissioning Editor is Fatima Salaria.

BBC Four

The People’s History of the NHS (3x60') 

The People’s History of the NHS is a three-part series which presents a crowd sourced history of the National Health Service. Presented by Alex Brooker, he'll meet people, who, for better or worse, rely on the NHS to survive, be they its staff or patients. He'll discover their treasured mementos and how these tell the intense, turbulent and moving story of this British institution from its inception to the present day.

Using these fascinating objects and deeply personal stories and made in partnership with the University of Warwick’s History department and co-commissioned by the Open University, these films will uncover a seventy year history of the highs and lows, triumphs and catastrophes of the NHS, which together paint a vivid, and often conflicted portrait of Britain.

Produced by 7Wonder and Commissioned by Abigail Priddle.

BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 celebrates the 70th anniversary of the NHS with a very special commission - a symphony composed entirely from the sounds of the health service and the words of its staff and patients. Recorded in binaural sound, this will be a ground-breaking piece of work. It's a symphony - without a single note of music. The piece will capture both the high drama and the daily, vigilant routines of a health service which treats a million people every 36 hours.

BBC Radio 4

National Health Stories, 18 June (20x15') 

Liverpool University historian, Professor Sally Sheard, explores the innovations, discoveries and events that have revolutionised our health in Britain and shaped the very nature of the National Health Service.

Using extraordinary archive dating back to the 1930s, interwoven with first-hand accounts, Sally goes back to the Second World War and beyond to reveal how unpredictable and dangerous healthcare was before the National Health Service began.

She explores how the war and some enterprising early pioneers helped to shape its creation, and how the doctors who Aneurin Bevan (Health minister and architect of the NHS) needed on side to run the new service nearly caused its undoing. As the NHS became part of British way of life there were key developments and discoveries that not only transformed the lives of its patients and those treating them but shaped the very nature of the Health Service as we know it. From the invention of the hip replacement which ushered in the sterile operating theatre, to the life-saving ‘artificial kidney’ machine which raised the then new moral question ‘who should we treat’. Sally also reveals the lesser known impact of the pill, which forced the NHS to recognise and value all the health needs of women, their sexual health included. The impact of the first test-tube baby, the protests of the 1980s, the scandal of the care of the mentally ill and the hospice movement are also explored to reveal how they have also shaped the very nature of the health service we have today.

The producer is Beth Eastwood for BBC Radio 4.

UK Confidential: The Birth of the NHS, 30 June, 8pm-9pm (1x60') 

Seventy years on from the launch of the NHS, have its critics been proved right? Martha Kearney examines the battles and compromises that went on behind the scenes, in the lead up to its creation, to ask whether the original misgivings were well-founded. Many of the papers are newly released, and include extracts from verbatim notes taken by Norman Brook, the Cabinet Secretary at the time.

The original proposal of a comprehensive national health service, as envisaged in the Beveridge Report, and spelled out in a subsequent 1944 White Paper, had to be watered down after opposition from the BMA. The doctors resisted the proposal that some general practitioners should become salaried state employees under the scheme.

Martha will examine the correspondence and the Ministerial meetings that lead Henry Willink, Minister for Health under Churchill, to produce a compromise White Paper, enabling general practitioners to continue as independent contractors or private practitioners, and compare it to what's happening in General Practice today.

The producer is Kate Dixon for Whistledown productions

Out of Tredegar, 29 June, 11am-11.30am (1x30') 

Michael Sheen explores the early life of the architect of the NHS, Nye Bevan, looking at the place that made the man and forged his vision. Wales created Aneurin Bevan. Specifically, Tredegar: a small town on the eastern edges of the South Wales coalfield. Bevan himself said that he was less a politician than a 'projectile discharged from the Welsh Valleys'. The very specific social and political context of the place he grew up in profoundly influenced his thinking, and what he witnessed there as a young man (including a stint in the mines) informed his feelings about social justice as well as some methods to achieve it.

The producer is Martin Smith for BBC Radio 4

BBC Wales

To Provide All People

To Provide All People is a drama commission from BBC Wales. To mark the 70th anniversary, the team behind The Green Hollow will bring us the intimate story of the NHS in British society today. This film, written by acclaimed poet Owen Sheers, will chart the emotional and philosophical map of the NHS and the personal experiences that lie at the heart of the service, from patients to surgeons, porters to midwives.

From first breath to last breath, through health and sickness, the film will portray a day in the life of an NHS hospital; the pains, triumphs, losses and celebrations that unite us all regardless of race, gender or wealth.
The cast of characters will represent the diversity of the NHS across its patients and workforce. The film will include some NHS staff and patients and, as in The Green Hollow, the characters will be played by some of the UK’s top acting talent including Michael Sheen, Eve Myles, Sian Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Aimee Ffion Edwards, George Mackay, Martin Freeman, Meera Syal, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Grieg, Rashan Stone Michelle Fairley, Suzanne Packer, and Michelle Collins.

PS